Having whimsically decided at the last moment to shoot my new film in Cinemascope ratio, I thought I’d improve my chances by looking at THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY of an evening. Well, I’m not sure I learned anything, I was too busy being amazed and entertained, but I did appreciate the fantastic Civil War gag of the soldiers in grey who turn out to be soldiers in blue who have gotten dusty from riding.


But what amazed me anew as I had forgotten it was how the sound of the officer beating his sleeve to dispel the dust segues into the sound of feet marching on the spot in the following scene. Both sounds are absolutely central to the action they depict and both actions are interconnected by narrative imperatives. This is miraculous stuff. Anybody can dream up a sound match — earlier in the film, a slain man drops to the ground and as his knuckles hit the dust, we cut to a donkey-driven mill-wheel which makes a series of clunks picking up the same sound and turning it into a backbeat. It’s good, but it’s not tremendously clever. The sleeve/marching transition is tremendously tremendously clever, as not only do the shots make matching sounds (cf David Lean and his wineglass/streetcar bell transition in DOCTOR ZHIVAGO), but each of them delivers a closely linked story beat. (1) You have fallen into enemy hands and (2) thus you are our prisoners-of-war.


Hats off to Maestro Leone!


9 Responses to “Dusters”

  1. I used to feel guilty, or like some kind of an ignoramus, when I would reflect to my private self that I actually enjoyed TG,TB&TU about as much as any western I’ve ever seen. I’ve since come about on that sentiment.

  2. My impression is that Leone didn’t become critically respectable until after death. Audiences enjoyed him but didn’t respect him, critics refused to enjoy him and certainly didn’t respect him, and only other filmmakers, the younger ones, really saw his amazing talent. So one might easily feel a little nervous about declaring TGTB&TU as a top ten western, or top ten film. Although I have met more than one audience member who rated OUATIAmerica as their all-time favourite film.

  3. John Seal Says:

    Speaking of David Cairns’ films, David, I just caught up with Let Us Prey (which is finally airing on a channel I receive). I was surprised by the ‘serious’ tone of your script: I was expecting some wry Scots humour and really didn’t get any! Would you agree that the film is a tribute of sorts to Carpenter – a pastiche of Assault on Precinct 13 and Prince of Darkness? In sum, I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t at all what I was anticipating!

  4. I was surprised and pleased at how many laughs LUP gets with an audience — the hysterical pitch of the last half hour really gets them going. But there’s nothing in there that’s specifically a gag, you’re right, and I expect it plays rather differently to smaller crowds or individuals.

    One fan called it Occult on Precinct 13, which we love. I knew the police station setting would cause a Carpenter connection to show through, and deliberately didn’re rewatch any JC while we were writing (and re-writing), but I think director Brian O’Malley did!

    The name MacReady isn’t a reference to The Thing, as many asssume, but to George MacReady, with whom I am obsessed.

    The one I’m shooting now… quite a bit of humour. Proper trousers-down humour.

  5. Since I just recently watched Arthur Askey, the idea of “trousers down” humor frightens me.

  6. Howard Curtis Says:

    Not entirely true to say that critics didn’t respect Leone. I was living in France the year that Once Upon a Time in the West came out, and can remember very admiring articles and interviews in French cinephile magazines.

  7. Ah, it was probably the Brits and Americans who were snootiest. Another case of the French being ahead of the curve, taste-wise.

  8. John Seal Says:

    If you’re going to be obsessed with an actor, there are few better to be obsessed with than George MacReady. Just watched him in Duffy of San Quentin, and he’s oily as ever playing opposite straight as an arrow Paul Kelly.

  9. His panty-slashing psycho in My Name is Julia Ross is another fave.

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